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Capitals vs. Canucks Recap: No Backstrom, No Bueno

The Capitals played a passable road game for about 10 minutes, but then it fell apart.

NHL: Washington Capitals at Vancouver Canucks Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

With Nicklas Backstrom out of the lineup due to illness, the Caps were thin, and looked every bit the part in Vancouver, falling 6-2 to the Canucks.

Here's Thursday night's Plus/Minus:

Plus: Chandler Stephenson. He was pretty decent in this game and picked up his first NHL point, a goal that he snuck in short side.

Minus: Bounces. The Caps were mediocre or worse for the most part, but three of the first four goals the Caps surrendered involved bounces going in Vancouver’s favor, and the Caps also hit four posts. That’s a huge swing—the scoreline was more extreme than the game.

Ten more notes on the game:

  1. With Nicklas Backstrom out of the lineup, Chandler Stephenson centered Tom Wilson and T.J. Oshie. He was okay. He used his speed to get to some loose pucks and picked up his first goal. But it was clear how much his linemates missed Backstrom’s vision and playmaking skills.
  2. The Caps played a fine game for the first 10 minutes—the teams combined for only five shots on goal during that time. With about seven minutes to go, Lars Eller had a great chance go off the knob of Anders Nilsson’s stick. But Vancouver got on the board on the other end, as Braden Holtby juggled a puck and Thomas Vanek batted it in.
  3. Vancouver added a second goal a couple of minutes later on the power play. Sven Baertschi, hanging around the side of the net, made a quick between-the-legs pass in front to Bo Horvat, who had an easy goal.
  4. The Canucks tallied once more before the period was out. Dmitry Orlov didn’t push the puck strongly around the boards. Derek Dorsett intercepted and centered, and the puck went off Evgeny Kuznetsov’s skate straight to Markus Granlund, who made it 3-0.
  5. More bad news for the Caps on the injury front—Brett Connolly was slow to get back to the bench late in the first, and took a forearm/elbow to the head/neck from Erik Gudbranson in the second. He left the game.
  6. The second period was a little better, but not much. Vancouver controlled play for much of the period, and tallied twice. First, a point shot went off Baertschi, off the inside of Holtby’s left leg, and trickled over the line. Second, Dorsett beat Holtby to the post on a wraparound. That made it 5-0 and ended Holtby’s night.
  7. Kuznetsov tallied seconds later for his first goal of the season and the Caps’ first of the night. The Caps attacked on the rush and Alex Ovechkin put a low shot on net. The rebound came out past several players looking for it and to Kuznetsov coming in late, and he shot it past Nilsson.
  8. The Caps got the third period started with some good shifts and another post. That was promising considering the first two periods, but could also have been the Canucks taking it easy with the game in hand.
  9. The Caps had issues with discipline in this game, again. They only got three power plays in this game, the first of which came when it was already 4-0, and one of which was nullified after 30 seconds due to a retaliatory penalty. Meanwhile, Vancouver got six opportunities and struck three times,
  10. Chandler Stephenson made it 6-2, skating up the left wing and catching Nilsson leaning off the near post. That was his first NHL point. Madison Bowey also picked up his first point with a secondary assist.

Although the Caps maybe didn’t merit losing 6-2, they were still the weaker team, especially when the game was still close. Vancouver, its current spot in the standings notwithstanding, is likely not a strong team—this performance points to how sorely Washington needs its top center and top defenseman in the lineup, and for its top goalie to be sharp. With zero of those three, you get performances like this one—the Caps had best hope they can get one or two of those three this weekend to be competitive in Alberta.